Initially written for Chauffeur Driven Magazine by Robyn Goldenberg.
Remote work is the new normal. COVID drastically changed how companies operate, and it’s also changed how employees work and where they work. Many companies have reduced their square footage or even closed physical offices entirely, saving the company money.
Switching to a remote workforce is easier for companies that do not need to be in front of customers. However, this is not the case for all companies. Companies like manufacturing, transportation, logistics, and hospitality would have more difficulty making the switch. That doesn’t mean that these businesses should ignore the work-from-home benefits. A hybrid solution could be the most economical way for some companies to maximize having both in-office and remote employees. Research is showing that remote work functionality is here to stay. So it’s time to embrace the change and learn how to make it work for you.
Managing employees working remotely can seem like a daunting task. You might feel that if you can’t physically see your team in the office, you can’t manage them. We all know not everyone is made to work remotely, and some people need the structure and employees around them. Working remotely can be troubling for some because they never leave “the office.” They feel they are always working—which could be a recipe for burnout. You’ll need a solid commitment to training and guiding new or inexperienced employees. These employees often benefit from having one-on-one interactions while learning the job or the industry. You can overcome these obstacles, but it’s essential to know that right off the bat. On-the-job training will help them avoid failure by believing their challenges are too big as they just get started.
Here is why remote work is here to stay.
Having remote employees can reduce overall company costs. Even if you’re doing a hybrid model and still require some office presence, you may be able to find a smaller space if you’re leasing or by renting out some of your room. The savings in rent alone might be enough to make it worth it; however, don’t forget that other associated costs come with having a physical space. Go through your P&L and highlight what costs are directly related to having a physical office. Remember that you will still need to provide computer equipment to your remote employees—which you may already have—so costs associated with equipment and IT may not change.
The talent pool is much wider geographically. This means that you can recruit from anywhere in the country (or internationally), which can be particularly helpful in competitive job markets. They also might be able to handle customer service/reservations and even dispatch positions at different times. With coverage across different time zones, you may be able to maximize the efficiency of your business and service more customers. This also means you will get more diversity—people from different cities and backgrounds lead to more ideas and competitive advantage.
Improve employee dedication to the company.
Improves employee retention. A study conducted by Miro found that 91 percent of those surveyed believe that remotely works best for them and that 96 percent would recommend working remotely to a friend (note that some other polls have lower numbers, often reporting in the 60 or 70 percentile, but the majority is overwhelmingly in support of remote work situations). Happy employees tend to stick around, and happy employees are the best kinds to have to interact with your customers.
Saving commute time is good for employees and the environment. A study released from FlexJobs—which included case studies of Xerox, Dell, and Aetna—estimated an annual savings of $20 million in gas, 54 million in greenhouse gas emissions (from taking cars off the road every year), 640 million barrels of oil, and 119 billion miles of highway driving. Outside of the environmental perks, think about how much unproductive time is spent commuting to and from an office daily, and then multiply that by five days on average. How much could an employee get done if they didn’t have to be in the car for those hours every week? And how much money would they save on their vehicle-related expenses by not driving as much? It all adds up.
- Team culture comprises your company’s values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors shared by your employees. It’s about how your people work together towards common company goals.
- The company culture doesn’t go away because people work remotely, as long as the goals and expectations are communicated and reinforced, and people are encouraged to work collaboratively versus alone in silos. Even companies with physical offices can lack company culture.
- Creating or enforcing company culture with remote teams requires some additional thought and actions, and it’s a vital step. It’s essential to think about how you may have traditionally kept up your company culture and how that may translate to people who are not in your physical office.
Communicate with the help of online software.
- Giving your team a place to communicate and collaborate with remote and in-office employees is crucial to the success of this. There are plenty of software platforms to help manage company projects (e.g., Monday.com) and other platforms that allow for inter-employee communication (e.g., Microsoft Teams).
- Allowing time for employees to be social with each other—like they would be in an office, recognizing special events or occasions, or even sending out gift cards for coffee or lunch—is a great way to reinforce that the company cares about their team, regardless of their physical location.
- You want to keep open lines of communication with your team. Meet regularly as groups and on an individualized basis to check in and see if anyone is struggling, facing any challenges, or has any concerns about their work environment.
- Make sure that your employees have the technology and equipment they need to succeed in their jobs. One of our industry clients provides a computer, printer, VoIP phone, and even covers a desk and chair. All the things you would typically provide to an in-office employee should apply to your remote employees. This also ensures that everyone is working at the same level.
- The most challenging part for hands-on business owners is knowing whether or not their employees are working. You can set up project tracking and have regular meetings to check in on progress, but you as an owner have to practice trusting your team at the end of the day. You hired them for a reason, so trust that they are being productive until they prove you wrong.
- As employees adjust to either moving to work from home or settling in as brand-new remote employees, there will be a learning curve for the team (even you). That’s OK—don’t jump down people’s throats as they adjust. Learning and building new habits takes time, not trial and error.
One final tip:
Focus on work output and not on process. Working from home is not the same experience as working in an office. The flow of your day as a remote worker is vastly different than in the office. It’s essential to enable employees to complete their tasks and projects in the most productive ways. This might also be a lesson you want to cross over into your in-office environment.
Remote work doesn’t work for every type of employee.
- Customer service reps and reservationists are probably the number one on this list to work remotely, especially if you have suitable systems in place so they can do their jobs seamlessly. I might get flack for this, but dispatchers also make significant work-from-home positions. We have a few clients who have dispatchers and res agents who work from home full time and are very successful.
- Other office positions that are easily adaptable to working remotely include any marketing functions like social media, website management, content creation, etc., and your finance department and payroll. It’s all about figuring out the essential functions of these positions and how to adapt them.
Final thoughts and other things to keep in mind.
As you would with an in-office employee, managing work hours and boundaries is still crucial for remote workers. If you need time with them, don’t assume that they can do it just because they’re at home. Boundaries are healthy.
Not only does the physical location change, but the way people work is changing as well. For certain positions that are not time-sensitive, giving more flexibility could prove beneficial. As long as employees get their projects done on time and done well, there’s little reason to micromanage. Resist the urge to hover over employees as much as possible virtually. That is a sure-fire way to lose great employees.
You may need to update and upgrade your IT infrastructure. This could seem like a significant upfront cost. Just as you might update your other systems, you should improve your IT infrastructure to match your growing and changing workforce. Be sure to seek out a reputable IT company to talk to them about the best options for your operations. We have clients with multiple locations across the country. They tend to operate on a cloud server, so everyone works from the same system, ensuring continuity. Other options like Google Drive and Microsoft Sharepoint also exist and might be best for your operation.
Don’t look at remote work as a perk or company benefit.
It’s not about where you work. It’s about how you work. If you’re going to adapt remote work as part of your company culture and vision, it’s just a company standard. It’s an option for employees, not something to be used as a bargaining chip or perk.
In conclusion, it’s important to remember that the “when” and “how” of work tasks can often be flexible, so long as company standards are met. It might be more beneficial in some cases to focus on meeting deadlines rather than strictly adhering to an inevitable process. What do you think? Are there any other times when it makes sense to break the rules to get things done? Let us know in the comments!
Robyn Goldenberg is the Chief Marketing Officer and Director of Operations for Strategy Leaders. She can be reached at email@example.com.